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THE DARK AGES                        119

churches the necessity for correctness in the copies of the Scrip-
tures and the service books they used. To a collection of Homilies,
corrected by Paulus Diaconus, which he caused to be distributed
among the churches in 782, he prefaced these notable words:
" Desirous as we are of improving the condition of the churches,
we impose on ourselves the task of reviving with the utmost zeal
the study of letters, well-nigh extinguished through the neglect of
our ancestors. We charge all our subjects, so far as they may be
able, to cultivate the liberal arts, and we set them the example."*
In this injunction, which would seem to have been among his
earliest attempts at raising the standards of education, are to
be discerned the characteristic features of all his subsequent
policy. He aimed at the elevation of the whole people, but
directed attention in the first instance to the clergy as their proper

The Italian scholars were not very well fitted to guide the
educational affairs of a people whom they must have regarded as
rude barbarians. Charles was supremely fortunate, however, in
Alcuin (circa 735-804), his next adviser, who was master of the
Palace School and chief education minister of the kingdom from
782 to 796. Alcuin not only came from a people closely akin to
the Franks, but he brought with him the English tradition of
scholarship at its best. Born in a noble Northumbrian family
about 735, the year of Bede's death, he had been a pupil in the
school at York at the time when learning was most flourishing in
the north of England. There, it might be said of him, as has been
said of Bede, two generations before him, he " enjoyed advantages
which could not perhaps have been found anywhere else in Europe
at the time—perfect access to all the existing sources of learning
in the West ... the Irish, the Roman, the Gallican, and the >
Canterbury learning,"! &&& ^e profited by his opportunities.
He became the most distinguished pupil of the school and when
his master Albert became archbishop he was ordained a deacon
and became head of the school himself in 776.

His new duties in the service of Charles were of a varied
character. An important one was the supervision of the Palace
School, which he conducted with the help of three disciples who

* Mullinger, The Schools of Charles the Great, p. 101.

t Dictionary of Christian Biography, article on Bede by Bishop Stubbs,
quoted West, Alcuin, p. 29.